Saturday, March 26, 2011

Option 2-Borges Blog

Perla Sasson-Henry introduces two theories in his portion of the Rocky Mountain Review of Language and Literature that reflect very well what our class has spoken about in Borges stories these past weeks. The Bifurcation Theory explains the idea that there are a “number of possibilities and solutions which emerge” (Henry 13) in every choice a person makes. We can see this theory run through many of Borges’ works, specifically in the Garden of Forking Paths. The second theory mentioned, is the Chaos Theory, which explains the “discovery that hidden within the unpredictability of chaotic systems are deep structures of order.” (Henry 12)

Bifurcation Theory occurs in the Garden of Forking Paths where there is talk of how “In all fictions, each time a man meets diverse alternatives, he chooses one and eliminates the others.” (Borges 125) There could be many futures for these men including death or life or delivering themselves to their captain. This theory is shown in many of Borges fictions, not only The Garden of Forking Paths, but it is also in The Lottery in Babylon.

We spoke in class of Borges’ love for simultaneity and parallel universes. We also spoke of how in The Garden of Forking Paths, the paths are killed after a man chooses one versus in The Lottery in Babylon, you could be anyone and do anything, it was up to chance, but there is still bifurcation in that you choose whether or not you want to play and when to play.

The Chaos Theory explaining that “what to the naked eye resembles noise, disruption, or disorganization is in fact the result of some deeply organized structure” (Henry 12), can be shown through The Library of Babel. This library may seem chaotic, filled with so many people and so an infinite number of books, but “the arrangement of the gallery is always the same: Twenty bookshelves, five to each side, line four of the hexagon’s six sides…” (Borges 112) The chaos of this library, really just is a very organized display of books and walls in a hexagonal figure.

We spoke of chaos when discussing The Lottery in Babylon and how Borges changes the way the world works and in his fictional pieces, he instead makes his characters living in an ordered world where the people only introduce the chaos. This is what is happening in both The Lottery in Babylon and The Library of Babel. This switch of how the world works is confusing and hard to grasp because the world is so chaotic, one may not be able to imagine a world or a library or a lottery that has initial chaos that is “ubiquitous, stable, structured”. (Henry 12)

The bifurcation theory and the chaos theory are both very apparent in the fictional works of Borges. These two theories are part of the reason why Borges may be difficult to read at times because they introduce new concepts into how the world works, concepts we may have never thought of before. Henry explains these theories in an understandable way in which heavily related the works of Borges to the two theories. Bifurcation and chaos may be two of the most prominent theories within the fictional works of Borges.

Works Cited:

1) Perla Sassón-Henry. Borges' "The Library of Babel" and Moulthrop's Cybertext "Reagan Library" Revisited
Rocky Mountain Review of Language and Literature
Vol. 60, No. 2 (2006), pp. 11-22
Published by: Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association
Article Stable URL:

2) Borges, Jorge Luis, and Andrew Hurley. Collected Fictions. New York, N.Y., U.S.A.: Viking, 1998. Print.

1 comment:

  1. I think that you do very well explaining the essay you read; certainly you seem to. One reason I think you did very well is that most of the time when literary critics refer to a scientific theory, they mangle it pretty badly - but you were able to extract a reasonable explanation of chaos theory from an essay which may not have explained it very well, so I thought that was quite good. So that part of your work is very effective.

    The second part of the prompt calls for you to either expand upon or critique something that we discussed in class. You barely even gesture at doing this. Now, clearly this essay does do different things than we did in class, and clearly what it does is *connected* to our discussion - but you aren't doing a good job of explaining how we should read and think differently with this essay in mind.

    Really, this was just too short: you gave a competent explanation of the essay, but then dodged really doing the second part.